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Jennifer Collins on getting employees through a crisis

For Microsoft’s Senior Director of Global Payroll, the importance of delivering payroll took on new urgency when crisis struck in Ukraine.

When Jennifer Collins joined the multinational tech company Microsoft, she had already cut her teeth running global payroll for Coca-Cola, another brand with a vast global footprint. Her fruitful partnerships with ADP as well as her experience creating payroll “dream teams” — consisting of people with varied skill sets — meant she knew exactly how to inspire new employees to support payroll’s mission. 

Working at a tech company meant she could leverage both in-house innovations and ADP’s know-how to create new and exciting payroll projects, redefining what payroll meant for all team members. 

But when crisis hit Ukraine, having reliable partners who could think on their feet and work together to find quick solutions became imperative to ensure Microsoft employees in the conflict zones could still receive their much-needed pay.

ADP ReThink Quarterly: When did your partnership with ADP begin?

When I joined the Coca-Cola Company in 2008 at its Atlanta headquarters, I was asked to lead a corporate accounting team. My role expanded within the first year to include payroll accounting. A few years later, I was asked to lead a global payroll transformation project based on my transferable skills in leading a global team, supplier partnerships, and finance. 

At the time, Coca-Cola had a decentralized payroll model that utilized a wide variety of local vendors with different technology platforms. My role was to deploy a global, standard payroll model focused on people, processes and technology. I did this by leveraging the move to ADP Global Payroll as a catalyst for change. To build this project team within Coca-Cola, I needed to leverage a wide variety of skills across the organization. 

Our partnership with ADP made that global vision possible. We rolled out ADP Global Payroll in over 60 countries around the world with the help of fantastic ADP project and global-relationship teams. This amazing group of people listened to what we were trying to accomplish, and they were right there with us for every step of that three-plus-year journey. They were invested in our mutual program success.

ADPRQ: How did you end up at Microsoft, and what did your relationship with ADP look like there?

I joined Microsoft one year ago because I saw an opportunity to take the next step in my career by expanding and further developing the global payroll skills I’d gained from working at Coca-Cola. The challenges of being able to support a population of 221,000 employees in over 100 countries in the rapidly evolving tech industry really appealed to me.

Microsoft is constantly growing, not just organically but also through acquisitions, which bring their own level of challenge. Now, I am enjoying finding new ways to add value at Microsoft and deepen the great partnership we have with ADP.

ADPRQ: What challenges did you encounter in your position as a payroll leader at Microsoft?

Part of the challenge of payroll is that there will always be unforeseen events. Even the most detailed playbooks and business continuity plans can’t anticipate everything. We had to make fast tactical decisions during the pandemic and again last year with the Ukraine crisis.

The impact of partnering with ADP to build and execute a plan to support our employees can’t be underscored enough. We were dealing with a situation that was unfolding in the news and unfolding in our business operations. We didn’t know what would happen next, but we knew that we needed to ensure that our employees were equipped to face whatever that might be.

We worked with our ADP partner in Ukraine to devise a plan to be able to advance pay to employees. And when it was time to deploy that plan, we were at the height of events unfolding on the ground in Ukraine. We had challenges ensuring that our local partners were able to execute the plan. But, regardless of what was happening around them, our ADP partner made sure they were able to execute that strategy, and our employees ultimately were able to receive their pay.

ADPRQ: What were some key lessons that you and your team learned during this challenging time?

Executing the payroll process may look slightly different depending on the company, but we all rely on a network of internal and external supplier partners. Forging strong relationships with these partners pays dividends in times of uncertainty. Our payroll team members need to apply relationship-building skills with our key vendors, like ADP, to drive results.

When I think of how payroll can deliver more value and enhance the employee experience at Microsoft, I think about ways to address questions that employees haven’t even asked yet. How can we meet the needs of a busy professional who doesn’t always have time to stop and reflect on what’s happening in their paycheck? I want my payroll team to be able to deliver value-added, proactive insights in a way that leverages the best of Microsoft and ADP technology. 

As payroll professionals, our mission is clear: We empower our employees through the accurate and timely delivery of pay. Potential payroll employees might think they understand what we do, but they don’t see all the fascinating and complex work that goes into making that payslip happen.

Contact ADP to discover how your organization can innovate and streamline your global payroll processes.

Luisa Rollenhagen

Luisa Rollenhagen is an Argentinian-German freelance journalist based in Berlin. She’s worked for publications including Deutsche Welle, GQ, The Guardian, and BuzzFeed.